Wednesday, February 29, 2012

So Now What?

Well, after three weeks of National Wildlife Refuges, let's catch up. Another trip to the Tucson Botanical Garden yielded some nice butterfly photos, although nothing I hadn't seen and photographed before. But, still worth sharing:

Blue and White Heliconian

Emperor Swallowtail


Tiger Longwing

Tree Nymph

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

National Wildlife Refuges

Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, Washington, 1936

Willapa National Wildlife Refuge is located on Willapa Bay, one of the most pristine estuaries in the United States. Willapa Bay is the second largest estuary on the Pacific coast and includes over 260 square miles of water surface. Many salmon species are found in the watters of Willapa Bay, including chum, chinook, and coho.

The refuge preserves several unique ecosystems, including diverse salt marshes, muddy tideflats, rain-drenched old growth forests, and dynamic coastal dunes and beaches. Freshwater marshes and grasslands are found along the southern shore of the bay.

The bay's shallow water and mud flats support vast beds of eelgrass and shellfish, providing spawning habitat for fish. During spring migration, more than 100,000 shorebirds are present. Isolated sandbars provide pupping grounds for harbor seals and rest sites for migratory birds.

Seabirds, such as brown pelicans, stream into the bay from the ocean in summer and fall. Other coastal habitats include sand dunes, sand beaches, and mud flats to grasslands, saltwater and freshwater marshes, and coniferous forest, including an old-growth stand of western red cedar-western hemlock forest.
Important species include the threatened marbled murrelet, bald eagles, great blue herons, and Brant. Grasslands and neighboring forests are home to bear, elk, bobcat, woodpeckers, flying squirrels, spotted owls, silver-haired bats, and Pacific tree frogs.

There are 16 National Wildlife Refuges along the Washington and Oregon Coast. All of the following photos came from some of those 16. Not all from Willapa. Truth be told I don't remember which came from Willapa. All were taken back in the 90's and my records weren't very good at the time. Thank goodness for computers and iPhoto (and other organizing photo software). Nonetheless here are a variety of those photos. And, with it the conclusion of my series on National Wildlife Refuges.

Least Sandpiper

Long Tailed Duck

Pelagic Cormorant

Pigeon Guillemot
Caspian Tern

Marbled Godwit

Semipalmated Plover

Monday, February 27, 2012

National Wildlife Refuges

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, California, 1937

The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge is the headquarters for the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex and is one of six refuges located in the Sacramento Valley of north-central California. The refuge is approximately 90 miles north of Sacramento, adjacent to Interstate 5.

The 10,783-acre refuge consists of about 7,600 acres of intensively managed wetlands, uplands, riparian habitat, and vernal pools. It typically supports wintering populations of more than 600,000 ducks and 200,000 geese. Since more than 95 percent of the wetlands of the central valley have been lost in the last 100 years, and waterfowl have become increasingly dependent upon the refuges of the Sacramento Valley.

The refuge supports several endangered plants and animals, including transplanted colonies of palmate-bracted bird s-beak, several species of fairy shrimp, vernal pool tadpole shrimp, giant garter snake, wintering peregrine falcon, bald eagle, and breeding tricolored blackbird. Resident wildlife includes grebe, heron, blackbird, golden eagle, beaver, muskrat, black-tailed deer, and other species typical of upland and wetland habitats. 

Sacramento NWR is one of my favorites. I have been there many times and am never disappointed. Here are some of my favorite photos:


American Bittern and Ring Necked Pheasant

Greater Yellowlegs

Long Billed Curlew

Peregrine Falcon

Ring Necked Pheasant

Sandhill Cranes

Turkey Vulture

White Faced Ibis

Sunday, February 26, 2012

National Wildlife Refuges

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Washington, 1966

Ridgefield NWR has a total of 5,218 acres of marshes, grasslands and woodlands. There is a 4.2 mile auto tour route and 1.2 mile seasonal hiking trail that provide a glimpse of what the refuge provides.

Ridgefield was established in 1966, along with 3 other refuges in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, to secure vital winter habitat for Dusky Canada geese and other wintering waterfowl. With subsequent changes to nesting habitat and reduction in dusky populations following the violent earthquake of 1964 in Alaska, the need for secure wintering habitat became even more important.

Stately sandhill cranes, shorebirds, and a great variety of songbirds stop at the Refuge during spring and fall migrations. Some bird species such as mallards, great blue herons, and red-tailed hawks are year-round residents that nest on the refuge. Black-tailed deer are the largest mammal on the refuge. Coyote, raccoon, skunk, beaver, river otter and brush rabbits are occasionally seen. 

Doing these posts on the National Wildlife Refuges has brought to light some changes that I need to make in my process. I had many photos of Ridgefield and it's various waterbirds including Sandhill Cranes, ducks, and geese. However, as I have gone through my 25,000 photos (over the past 20 years) I have either deleted or not scanned many into my computer. For example,  I had many Sandhill Crane photos from Ridgefield, but had others from Bosque del Apache, NM or Whitewater Draw in Arizona, that were better photos, so I ended up deleted the Ridgefield ones. In doing so, I am not able to show the variety of birds that can be found in this wonderful refuge. With the storage capacity of computers now, keeping additional photos is not a problem. So, I am going to be much more careful in my "selection/deletion" process than I have been in the past. Here's what's left of my Ridgefield photos (all taken during the mid nineties):

Ferruginous Hawk

Great Blue Heron Drying his Wings

Great Blue Heron Walking

Great Blue Heron Eating

Great Egret

Friday, February 24, 2012

National Wildlife Refuges

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge,Washington, 1974

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is located where the freshwater of the Nisqually River meets the saltwater of south Puget Sound, creating the Nisqually River Delta. The delta is a biologically-rich and diverse area that supports a variety of habitats including the estuary, freshwater wetlands and riparian woodlands. It is considered the last unspoiled major estuary in Puget Sound. The Nisqually Delta has been designated as a National Natural Landmark because of its national significance as one of the best examples of this kind of coastal salt marsh system remaining in the North Pacific.

Nisqually Refuge is famous for the more than 275 migratory bird species that use the refuge for migration, wintering, or breeding. The refuge provides rearing and migration habitat for steelhead trout and several salmon species, and habitat for a variety of threatened and endangered species. The Black River Unit, southwest of Olympia, provides high quality habitat for Coho and Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, migratory birds, and a diversity of other species.

Much of the refuge is accessible only by boat. From the visitors center there is a 5 mile trail through the woodland and riparian areas.

On an interesting historical note: In 1833, the Hudson's Bay Company established a trading post and farm in the Nisqually River delta. Soon, European-Americans began to settle in the area. By 1839, a major part of the econmy began to shift from fur trading to farming and sheep grazing. The refuge is the site of the signing of the first Indian treaty in Washington Territory, in December 1854, at a grove along the east bank of McAllister Creek now known as the Treaty Trees. The treaty reserved certain fishing, hunting, and gathering rights for the tribes. Members of the Nisqually Tribe still exercise these rights, fishing for salmon in refuge waters.

About 50 miles from Seattle, Christine and I went there frequently during the mid and late 80's to hike and see wildlife. It wasn't until 1990 when I decided it was time to buy a camera that I started taking photos, though. Here are a few photos from the early 90's:

Blue Goose

Canada Goose

Canada Goose with Great Blue Heron

Canada Geese with Snow Goose

Snow Geese

Thursday, February 23, 2012

National Wildlife Refuges

National Bison Range, Montana, 1908

While Teddy Roosevelt set aside some of the first Wildlife Areas by Executive Order starting in 1903, by 1908 he finally got Congress to agree to a Nationwide allocation and management program . And, the National Bison Range was established with the first Congressional appropriations ever made for the purchase of lands for a national wildlife refuge. The original herd of bison, released in 1909, was purchased with private money from the American Bison Society; the herd was then donated to the Range. The National Bison Range helped bring the bison back from the edge of extinction. Today, 350 to 500 bison call the Range home.

Much of the Range was once surrounded by prehistoric Lake Missoula, which was formed by a glacial dam 10,000 years ago. The old beach lines of Lake Missoula are still visible on north-facing slopes. Today, the National Bison Range has a diversity of habitats, including grasslands, Douglas fir and ponderosa pine forests, riparian areas, and ponds. The National Bison Range is one of the last intact publicly-owned palouse prairie grasslands in the United States.

In addition to herds of bison, the Range supports populations of elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep as well as coyotes, mountain lions, bears, and bobcats. The Refuge has recorded 211 bird species.

This is one of my favorite Refuges. As you will see from the photos, I have been there at different times of the year: winter, summer, spring, and fall. Much like Yellowstone, it never disappoints. Although, I always go there looking for mammals, occasionally I find a bird or two worth a photo.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep - Ram

American Bison: I had been looking all the previous afternoon and following morning for  Bison. Then to my surprise came across this lone Bull standing in the snow.

Elk getting a drink from a small pond.

Mule Deer: still velvet on their antlers, late Summer.

Pronghorn in Thistles

Pronghorn in Snow

White Tailed Deer: When Whitetails are calm their tails are down. When they are cautious, there tails are horizontal. When they are nervous, their tails are up. Here are three Whitetails showing all three positions. (Photo from 1992)

Blue Grouse: a pleasant surprise.

Lazuli Bunting

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

National Wildlife Refuges

McNary National Wildlife Refuge, Washington, 1955

The McNary National Wildlife Refuge is a welcomed respite for migratory birds, native plants, and human visitors alike. Extending along the east bank of the Columbia River in southeastern Washington, from the confluence of the Snake River to the mouth of the Walla Walla River, and downstream into Oregon, the McNary NWR is located in rural Burbank, but very close to the rapid development of the Tri-Cities (Kennewick, Pasco and Richland).

Established in 1955, the McNary NWR was created to replace wildlife habitat lost to construction of the McNary Dam downstream. The 15,000 acres of sloughs, ponds, streams and islands—riparian and wetland habitat—as well as upland shrub-steppe and cliff-talus habitat are important to migratory waterfowl, shorebirds and songbirds. Few areas in North America support such dense concentrations of waterfowl; more than half the mallards in the Pacific Flyway overwinter at some time in this portion of the Columbia River Basin.

The refuge is particularly important to Canada geese, mallards and wigeons, as well as shorebirds and wading birds. Other waterfowl species using the refuge include green-winged teal, shoveler, canvasback, ring-necked duck, and lesser scaup duck. Rare, endangered and "Federal Species of Concern" birds, including bald eagles and peregrine falcons, are found here, as are thousands of colonial nesting water birds using river islands for safe nesting.

McNary is another of those NWR that I breezed by while traveling. I didn't spend nearly enough time there. I did hike around the slough and got some nice Wood Duck photos which have been rare for me. So, that was pleasing. But I haven't had a chance to get back there since my only visit in 1993.

Northern Shoveler

Wood Duck

Wood Ducks

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

National Wildlife Refuges

Mahleur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon, 1908

One of the crown jewels of the National Wildlife Refuge System, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge protects 187,000 acres of wetlands in southeastern Oregon's high desert. It is adjacent to the Steens Mountain Wilderness, with the Wild and Scenic Donner and Blitzen River flowing into the refuge at its southern boundary.

The refuge is famous for its tremendous diversity and spectacular concentrations of wildlife. Boasting over 320 bird species and 58 mammal species, Malheur is a mecca for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts.

Spring is the most spectacular season at Malheur. More than 130 species of birds nest on the refuge, while other waterfowl using the Pacific Flyway stop at the refuge to refuel for their journey northward. In February, northern pintail and tundra swan begin to arrive, followed by large flocks of lesser and greater sandhill crane, and flocks of snow goose and Ross' goose.

It's another Refuge that I went to several times during the 90's. So, I have photos from several different seasons. Here is a variety of them:

Great Blue Heron

Great Egret

Hooded Merganser

Mule Deer Buck with Doe

Mule Deer Door with a "nosy"  LBB

Northern Pintail

Northern Shoveler (male and female)

Red Tailed Hawk

Ring Necked Pheasant

Rough Legged Hawk

Wood Duck in winter